Listening to Your Employees is Good Business

It was in the checkout line of the Publix on a food shopping errand with Dad that an entrepreneurial vision first sprang in fifth grade Jordan’s mind. He watched the line of kids in front of the quarter machines with intent interest. There was just something about those machines that beckoned for change. It wasn’t the actual prize. Nah, they were kinda flimsy. In fact, his Tampa Bay Buccaneers mini helmet had just melted into a plastic mess in the sun. It wasn’t out of need. The sticky hands that he had collected in every color were fun enough at first. But then they lost their “stick.” Jordan dug his hand into his own jeans pockets looking for 25 cents. It was all about the mystery. There was something just plain exciting about inserting a coin and not knowing what prize would emerge from the colored egg. Instead of coming up with a coin, Jordan hatched an idea. What if he were to bring this to the MicroSociety Marketplace at Chocachatti Elementary? In his mind’s eye, he could just see the line wrapping around the hallway.

The wheels started turning. He would sell sports buttons. But with one catch: customers wouldn’t be able to see what team they were buying until they opened their unmarked box. He could do a football line. A baseball line. A basketball line… It was then and there that Mystery Boxes were born.

Well, kind of. It wasn’t really until 2 weeks later that the legislature approved his plan, the bank okay-ed his loan, and a manager was hired. But his line wasn’t a line at all. And he couldn’t figure out why. He had seen this idea work. In Publix. In the mall…

It was Shelby, his fourth grade manager, who unknowingly nudged him toward the realization. Scrunching her nose as she looked at the buttons, she declared, “No offense. But there is nothing here for girls.”

“What do you mean?” he asked. “Girls like sports too.”

“Some of us do,” she replied. “But I know that I don’t want to collect a whole series of sports buttons. You need more variety.”

“Well, what do girls want?” he shrugged, confused.

Raising an eyebrow, she replied, “You gotta do your market research. We learned about that in Management 101.”

And so he did, leading to the inventory additions of friendship bracelets, keychains, and pom pom pets, alongside the original buttons. Now, watching his own line intently, Jordan knew he had made a smart move. He hadn’t expected a slow start.  But then again, sometimes not knowing what you’re going to get can be just as rewarding as getting it.  


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